The Secretary-General of the National Board of Drugs, Diego Olivera announced during an interview on Republica Radio that his office is working jointly with the Canadian Government to promote a risk management guide for cannabis consumers.
“We have been working in conjunction with Canada and sharing different approaches to drug policies. We are writing up a guide with measures for health promotion, risk and harm reduction, also with specific contacts to be able to access a consultation in case the person needs it, “said Olivera.
Canada is the second country, after Uruguay, to regulate the recreational cannabis market. Users can plant up to four plants in their homes or acquire cannabis in public establishments registered for sale.
In 2001, Canada became the first country to legalize the medicinal use of cannabis for the terminally ill and patients with serious illnesses. From that early start to today, Canada has expanded its legislation and forged a vigorous and profitable medicinal cannabis industry, which is why synergy with the Uruguayan government arose to make joint progress.
Olivera said, “We are working hard to apply challenging and innovative legislation, which marks a before-and-after in how cannabis policies have been addressed over the last decade. “
“We are aware that we have challenges, what we have done must be expanded, but we also recognize that it is an innovative policy, there are no other international regulation systems as advanced as ours, which is currently covering at least 25% of Uruguay’s users.”
Another factor that generates a great challenge, said Olivera, is the registration.
“To have legal access you have to be registered, obviously it is a challenge for all parties, to generate conditions and to be reliable enough so that the information stored there has a very high standard in terms of computer security,” he added.
Olivera understands that this is a very delicate matter. The access points, in the case of sales in pharmacies, have a connection with this registry, to know who to sell and who not to sell to, without revealing the purchasers’ personal information at the counter. “There have been major developments regarding identification at points of sale through fingerprint technology”, explained Olivera.
There are currently 34,108 people registered, according to the last disclosure that took place at the end of April, of these people 23,171 are registered to buy in pharmacies.
“We have developed mass advertising campaigns, we are also working with the education system, we will launch the Dale Voz program, which is a training program for public education teachers throughout the country, in order to educate on the behaviors and health factors that favor prevention of younger people with problematic consumption. This work is being done in coordination with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).”
Unlike in the U.S. where asset forfeitures are often used to buy local police stations luxuries like margarita machines or simply pocketed by corrupt deputies, in Uruguay these seized funds are directed to rehab programs.
“The implementation of the Forfeited Assets Fund allows reinvesting, in this case favorably, the assets that are confiscated from criminal organizations towards a response system to help people with addictions, particularly to assist people hooked on base paste and other harmful substances”.
South America is experiencing a crisis of addiction to substances like base paste which is a by-product of the cocaine production endemic to much of the continent.
The Uruguayan police and hospital services are developing an infrastructure that will be coordinated by the toxicology department and will provide services to the entire public health system.
“An early warning system was developed that involves sharing information very quickly among a network of important actors that have to do with health services, especially at the emergency level, this involves the Toxicology Center of the Clinical Hospital and the Forensic Institute that have laboratories to continue advancing the work of the Secretariat “.
Clearly, this is the model that other countries should be following, rather than the lock-em-up approach of the reefer madness prohibitionists who are currently in charge of drug policies in most nations of the world today.